Within the church, most Communication Directors fall into the trap of viewing their positions as administrative rather than ministry roles. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s way beyond an administrative role. Leaders, pastors and directors need to view it that way, and so does the rest of the staff. When I worked on a church staff in a communications role, I fought long and hard to be called a Communications Pastor instead of a Communications Director. I felt that strongly about it.
The reason I believe it’s a ministry role is because we play such a huge role in communicating the heart, uniqueness and message of the church to the congregation and the community. If we do a poor job of communicating not only the gospel but also the heart of the church, we’re not bringing new people to the church or keeping current members engaged with the vision and mission of the church. Leaders have to recognize the work we do is eternal work and not simply “marketing”.
Here’s an example: My team was working with a church on a project where we built their entire web experience. Afterward, one of the pastors came up to me and said, “I really want to thank you for the work you did for our church.” I asked him, “Why are you thankful for the work we’ve done?” He replied, “Because of your ability to put every effort you have into our web experience, we’ve had several people join our young adult ministry. When we ask them, why did you decide to look at our church? They said because of the website.” That confirmed to me we do play a role in ministry.
With that in mind, here are three essentials to creating an effective communications ministry:
1. Standards – When I refer to “standards”, I’m talking about brand standards. This is where you articulate the mission, values, strategy, measures and vision of the church. Inside the Brand Standards document, you have:
- Your church logo, tagline and statements
- How to use the logo and how not to use the logo
- The fonts you use (heading font, subheading font, etc.)
- Style (professional, clean, modern, etc.) and color template
- Email signatures and phone messages
Those are just some examples of the standards that protect your brand. If you don’t have standards, you have no foundation to protect and communicate your message.
2. Strategy – After you develop your standards, you’ve got a good idea of who you are as a church. Your strategy involves understanding your audience, and then identifying the best way of communicating who you are to that potential audience. You have to bridge the communication gap between your church and your audience.
One great way to do this: Survey your current church audience. Ask them how they prefer to be communicated to on a regular basis. That will give you a pretty good idea of how people outside your church want to receive communications.
You have a lot of options in how you communicate – from traditional forms like radio, newspaper, billboard, magazine and direct mail to new ways like inbound marketing, search engine optimization, social media, e-newsletters, video broadcasting, websites and blogging. All these are available, but you need to identify what’s best for you. You have to decide:
- HOW you are going to communicate to your audience
- WHAT you’re going to communicate to your audience
- WHEN you’re going to communicate to your audience
And you have to make sure you have metrics in place to gauge whether or not you’re achieving your desired results.
3. Systems – You can have great standards and strategy, but if you don’t have systems in place it will not be upheld. Let me repeat that: If you don’t have systems in place, standards and strategy mean absolutely nothing. The systems that you must set in place are the wheels that turn everything in action. It’s what allows the day-to-day operations to run smoothly.
Your systems are how you handle projects internally. They include how you work with:
- Outside agencies
- Other ministry staff leaders to communicate their message
- Senior staff to make sure the most important messages are being communicated the right way
You have to put these systems in place and communicate them to the staff. The Communications Pastor must be directly connected with the senior leader and leadership team – if not on the leadership team. If the Communication Pastor doesn’t fully understand the mission, values, strategy and vision of the church, they won’t be able to communicate them. They’ll be walking in the dark and all communication efforts will be futile.
Once the senior leadership has committed to the standards, strategy and systems, they need to be communicated to the entire staff and volunteers. For communications to be effective, everyone must “buy in” and treat the Communications Pastor and his team as the experts in the field. It is also advantageous for the Communication Pastor to include other staff members, volunteers, church members and community members to help shape the standards, strategy and systems. Doing these three things – and doing these three things first – will enable you to create an effective communications ministry in your church and for your community.